Cubs

Wood leaves money on table

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Wood leaves money on table

By Patrick Mooney
CSNChicago.com

The memories flooded Kerry Woods mind at Holy Name Cathedral, seeing all those old teammates and Cubs officials at Ron Santos funeral. After the service, Wood and his wife Sarah began discussing the remote possibility of returning to where they started.

Jim Hendry can still hear Santos voice whenever Wood walked down the aisle of the team plane after a win: Hey, big boy, hell of a job. When Hendry left Lake Buena Vista, Fla., and the winter meetings last week, he thought he had no chance of signing the free-agent reliever.

Wood and Hendry greeted each other at Santos funeral and spoke later that night during Ryan Dempsters charity event at D'Agostino's, a pizza joint not far from Wrigley Field. This was the message Wood gave the general manager: Trust me, its not going to cost you as much as you think.

Seven days later, there was Wood pulling on a No. 34 jersey at a stadium club news conference and Hendry beaming at the one-year, 1.5 million deal.

Trust is what their relationship is built upon. Hendry joined the organization in November 1994 and months later, the Cubs made Wood the fourth overall pick in the draft and, over time, a very rich man.

Wood has already made close to 70 million in his career, according to the salary database at Baseball-Reference.com. In turning down multi-year offers elsewhere, and presumed interest from the Yankees, Red Sox and White Sox, Wood made a lifestyle choice.

Its reasonable to think that he could have guaranteed himself 10 million more on the open market. But he and his wife want to continue raising their three children in Chicago.

Its never been about the money for me, Wood said Friday. Its about being home.

While theres no formal agreement in place to define Woods post-playing career, Hendry sees him as a potential special assistant in the front office, like Greg Maddux, or a face for the community-relations department. Wood, who will turn 34 next summer, met with chairman Tom Ricketts this week to discuss his future in the organization.

I plan on being a Cub for the rest of my life, Wood said. Were rooted here. Were not going anywhere.

No one wanted to go too deep on Woods retirement, because the Cubs really need him to stay healthy and dominate the eighth inning. The deal contains modest incentives based on games saved should closer Carlos Marmol get hurt and Wood becomes the closer.

But it left enough financial room for the Cubs to keep looking for another starting pitcher. One source said that theyre not close to finalizing an agreement with Brandon Webb, and that the Yankees havent called about Carlos Zambrano, who has a no-trade clause and also wants to stay in Chicago.

The tremendous way that (Wood) allowed us to do the contract enables us to go out and do a few more things hopefully before the start of camp, Hendry said. He didnt come back here to be on a fifth-place team.

The rotation could be strengthened by converting Andrew Cashner, another first-round pick from Texas who can throw 100 mph heat. Wood will be seen as a positive, calming influence on a young bullpen and a clubhouse that could use another leader. But its not like he will be paid to coach.

No offense to Cashner, Wood said, (but) I wasnt signing to help him out.

Its not even Christmas and the Cubs have already addressed their two biggest offseason needs with creative one-year deals. By giving first baseman Carlos Pena a 2 million signing bonus and a deferred 5 million payment that will be delivered in January 2012, Hendry bought himself some flexibility.

Combined Pena and Wood are due 4.5 million in 2011. By comparison, reliever John Grabow will make 4.8 million next season.

It might not seem like such a bargain if Wood goes on the disabled list for the 15th time in his career, but on Friday afternoon nobody around the Cubs wanted to think like that.

Wood thrived in New York as Mariano Riveras setup man (0.69 ERA in 24 games) after a deadline deal with the Indians and until last week, that seemed like a logical destination.

But Wood never wanted to leave Chicago where he was a Rookie of the Year and made two All-Star teams in the first place. He put a price on his sense of belonging.

And from the sadness of Santos death emerged a happy reunion that neither side saw coming.

Nobody loved Kerry Wood more than Ron Santo, Hendry said. In some strange way, I really believe that this wouldnt have happened if we hadnt hooked up at the church.

Patrick Mooney is CSNChicago.com's Cubs beat writer. Follow Patrick on Twitter @CSNMooney for up-to-the-minute Cubs news and views.

Cubs offense appears to be heating up at the right time

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USA TODAY

Cubs offense appears to be heating up at the right time

The Cubs are nearing the end of a brutal stretch where they have reported to the ball park 30 days in a row. Naturally, as that stretch is nearing its end, the offense seems to be catching fire. 

After scoring just 15 runs in their previous seven games, the Cubs have scored a combined 14 runs in two games on 21 hits. They scored nine runs on Tuesday alone, beating the Diamondbacks 9-1 in Arizona.

Scoring nine runs in one game is a great sign, but the fact that the entire starting lineup is contributing is an even better one. Every player in Tuesday's starting lineup got at least one hit, minus starting pitcher Mike Montgomery. 

Daniel Murphy entered Tuesday hitting .191 in September that included a 3-for-26 stretch dating back to Sept. 8. Tuesday, he went 2-for-3 with a leadoff single and a two-run home run.

Javier Báez was in an 8-for-30 "slump" entering Tuesday that dated back to Sept. 8. He hit a two-run home run in the first inning, his second home run in as many days. Kris Bryant hit safely for the third straight game, while Ian Happ hit an RBI double from the ninth spot in the batting order.

Baby steps, people.

Jason Heyward made his first start since Aug. 30 on Tuesday, hitting a double and scoring on an RBI double by Happ. While Heyward exited after two at-bats, it was likely to not push him too hard as he comes back from a hamstring injury.

Heyward's return is important due to his defense, but also because of his .276 batting average and respectable .743 OPS. Adding him to the lineup, no matter where he hits, is only a good thing for the Cubs' offense. 

Willson Contreras is just 1-for-9 this series, but he has been driving the ball with authority. After posting a 19.6 percent hard contact rate in August (his lowest over an entire month all season), he has posted a 32 percent hard contact rate this month (entering Tuesday's game), according to Fangraphs.

With 11 games to go, the Cubs now hold a 3.5 game lead over the Brewers for first place in the NL Central. Their magic number to win the division dropped to 8 following Tuesday's win and the Brewers 3-1 loss to the Reds.

Talks of fatigue have surrounded the Cubs recently due to their current 30-day stretch without a day off. The fact that the offense has scored as much as it has this series is quite ironic; perhaps the team sees the light at the end of the tunnel? 

Fatigue or not, the Cubs have to like they way the offense is trending as the regular season comes to a close. 

Brandon Morrow ruled out for the year as Cubs dealt another big blow to bullpen

Brandon Morrow ruled out for the year as Cubs dealt another big blow to bullpen

Brandon Morrow won't be riding in to save the day for the Cubs bullpen this October.

Theo Epstein ruled the closer out for the year Tuesday evening, saying Morrow just couldn't make it all the way back from a bone bruise.

"Every time he pitched, it got worse," Epstein said, according to MLB.com's Carrie Muskat.

Morrow hasn't pitched since before the All-Star break while battling the bone bruise in his forearm.

The Cubs gave him as much time as possible to recover and then he tried to ramp up his rehab over the last couple weeks in an effort to make it back for the postseason. 

He threw off a mound twice last week and then faced live hitters in a sim game Saturday that supposedly went well with the hope of being activated either sometime this week in Arizona or over the weekend on the South Side for the Cubs-White Sox series.

This leaves the Cubs in a serious hole in the bullpen for October, a time when relievers become some of the most important players on the roster.

With Pedro Strop's hamstring injury he suffered last Thursday in Washington D.C., the Cubs are down their top two relief pitchers for the final two weeks of the regular season and will be down at least Morrow in the playoffs. 

Strop said Monday he hoped to be able to return to the Cubs over the final weekend of the regular season (Sept. 28-30), but there is still a lot up in the air with his timeline. 

The Cubs are now left with a bullpen that includes Steve Cishek, Justin Wilson, Carl Edwards Jr. and Jesse Chavez plus a bunch of question marks.

[RELATED — Jesse Chavez has emerged as the most important pitcher in Cubs bullpen]

Will Dillon Maples be able to carve out a role in the October bullpen? What about Jorge De La Rosa or Jaime Garcia? 

The next 13 days will be telling.

Morrow has a long history of injuries over his career - making only 91 appearances (21 starts) and pitching 180.1 innings over the last five seasons entering 2018. He emerged as a dynamic piece of the Dodgers bullpen last October and appeared in each game of the World Series against the Astros.

This is the second pitcher the Cubs have ruled out for the season with a bone bruise, as Yu Darvish also had to be shut down due to a bone bruise in his elbow. Darvish had a debridement procedure on his elbow last week and is supposed to be ready to go for spring training 2019.